It happens to the best of us. You sit down at the keyboard with a steaming cup of coffee (or tea), ready to start typing away, and then…nothing. You’re up and ready, but it seems that your muse’s alarm clock was set for P.M. instead of A.M.

Yes, writer’s block sucks. And sometimes it takes a little more than coffee to get your brain going. Here are four ideas to help you break through the dreaded block and get your writing started.

Write by hand

There’s just something about writing by hand. Maybe it’s the sight of words appearing on the page thanks to the swoop of a pen, as opposed to the click of a key.

Maybe it’s just having something in your handwriting as opposed to a predetermined font. Or maybe it’s that you don’t have the ability to open your browser and goof off by checking blogs/news sites/webcomics every 10 minutes.

Writing by hand forces you to focus. There’s nothing but you and the pen and the paper. It’s not as easy to get distracted when you don’t have something like the Internet and email to get distracted by. (It’s also especially helpful when you get to feeling like your eyeballs will fall out of their sockets if you stare at the screen for five more seconds.)

Change your surroundings

Right now, I’m sitting outside on my balcony with a notebook, scribbling the first draft of this post while I listen to my iPod. It’s Oklahoma, so I don’t have an outstanding beach view, but I do see some very pretty redbud trees that have survived the schizophrenic and bipolar weather Mother Nature has dumped on us for the better part of 2009.

Whether it’s a back porch, a park, a bookstore, or your favorite coffee shop, staring at something besides the same four walls can give your brain the jumpstart it needs to start writing. And, hey, if you go outside, you might get a tan while you’re at it.

Take a break

Sometimes, you just need to step away from the keyboard and give your brain a chance to goof off. Read a chapter from your favorite book. Color. Watch TV. Do yoga. Play guitar. Play video games. Take a nap. Ride a bike. Go to the gym. Dance like crazy to your favorite songs. Heck, hand-wash the dishes or do the ironing, if that’s your cup of tea.

Just do something else so that you quit knotting yourself up over a block. A half-hour of rest may be just what you need to smooth it out.

Try a routine

W. Somerset Maugham once said, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

One of the pitfalls of being a creative person is that whole “must” thing. If the muse ain’t talking, we ain’t creating. However, people generally tend to frown on the “my muse was asleep” excuse when you miss a deadline.

Try setting up a routine for yourself. Are you best early in the morning? Then make 7 a.m. – 10 a.m. your writing time every day. Are you sharpest after lunch? Then do it from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. (You don’t have to do it for three hours. I’m just giving examples.)

If you give your muse a routine, then she’ll start showing up when you need her to. It may be hard at first, but once you’ve trained your brain that this is your creative time, you’ll find it a lot easier to create.

Don’t let the block get you down. Do you have any good ways for breaking out of writer’s block? Let us know!

Photo by Martin Kingsley